Getting Over the Rainbow

An Inner Look at Our Outer Differenc es
K. Murray Katherine Murray 1 Rainbow

Getting Over the Rainbow
An Inner Look at Our Outer Differences

© 1992 Katherine Murray Indianapolis, IN

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Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................... 6 Chapter One: Understanding Rainbows ........................... 9 Needing Rainbows............................................................10 Seeing Rainbow Expressions ............................... 12 Chapter Two: Seeing Personal Rainbows ....................... 18 Rainbow Materials ...........................................................19 Building Our Rainbows ..................................................20 Cloaks of Rainbow Colors ..............................................23 Releasing the Cloak ...........................................................26 Chapter Three: Seeing Our Own Rainbows .................... 30 Building Our Rainbows ..................................................30 Rainbow Inspection..........................................................35 Chapter Four: Letting Go and Loving Color .................... 43 Changing Perspectives ....................................................45 Letting Go.............................................................................45 Shining in Stillness............................................................47 Getting Past Fear ...............................................................50 Chapter Five: Getting Past the Past ................................ 54 The Hold of the Past ..........................................................56 Arm's-Length Closeness .................................................60 Forgiving Our Selves ........................................................62 A Path of Forgiveness.......................................................64

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Chapter Six: Weathering Storms .................................... 68 Understanding Misunderstanding .............................70 Healing and Helping .........................................................77 Being the Source .................................................................79 Chapter Seven: Some Uncoloring Exercises ..................... 82 Erasing Ourselves..............................................................83 Origins of Light ..................................................................86 Spreading It Around.........................................................89 Chapter Eight: The Illusion of Becoming ......................... 92 The Trap................................................................................94 The Effort of Becoming .....................................................97 Being.......................................................................................99 Chapter Nine: Letting Other Rainbows Shine ............... 102 Not Being Right ............................................................... 106 Respecting Rainbows.................................................... 108 Chapter Ten: Seeing Beauty in Rainbows ..................... 112 Beauty and Newness..................................................... 114 Seeing Real Beauty ......................................................... 115 From the Inside Out ....................................................... 119 Chapter Eleven: Raising Rainbow -Free Children .......... 124 Before Labels .................................................................... 126 Preserving the Light ...................................................... 131 Chapter Twelve: Celebrating Light .............................. 134 Celebrating Connection................................................ 136

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Celebrating Sameness ................................................... 137 Endings ...................................................................... 141

Dedication
To Grandpa Dave, Because you remember...and love...and smile. :) Love, Kath

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Introduction
There are lots of us out here in the world wondering why. Why is the sky blue? Why are the trees green? Why do birds sing? Why are we born? Why does our existence seem to be monopolized by an endless string of annoying details? What is the key to final, lasting happiness? Why do we have such a tough time understanding ourselves? Questions are understandable. Questioning is addictive. The deeper we look into things, the more we look at ourselves; the more we look at ourselves, the more the quest may seem both endless and pointless. Sometimes even hopeless. But eventually, no matter what we are questioning—why our government works (or doesn’t work) the way it does, why our teenagers are slipping beyond our grasp, why there’s so much violence all around—we are eventually turned around to see ourselves. The answer begins and ends with us. Did you ever get the feeling that we sometimes make life harder than it has to be? We program ourselves to believe that nothing in life is easy—that happiness doesn’t just happen—that good things come only to

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those who practically work themselves to death. Or get really, really lucky. It’s not true. Why do birds sing? Perhaps it’s because they don’t have anything to do all day except fly around, visit birdfeeders and gardens, and sing with joy. Whatever the reason, they probably don’t analyze everything they do, sizing themselves up against other birds, evaluating their performance. They just are. And they’re true to their nature. There’s a lesson there for us, too. Nature provided us with all the direction we need to make sense of our lives. And the lessons we learn from the world around us are not complicated and esoteric and available only to an intellectual few. They are as straightforward as an honest smile. How many times in your life so far have you seen a rainbow? You can probably remembe the last rainbow you saw—color sweeping across the sky, reaching from one horizon to another, all within the scope of your very own sight. Rainbows are part mystery, part miracle, part

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completely explainable science, but they never fail to bring awe when they paint themselves across our skies. And rainbows follow us like the moon, did you ever notice? As we move, the rainbow hangs there in the sky, a creation relative to our perspective. This book uses the amazing and awe-inspiring image of the rainbow to explain the beautiful, striking, and amazingly varied expressions we create with the energy we bring forth in our lives. The idea is that the light at our center—love, essence, spirit—is not the color we see and share, but that there is a way to connect and love all the beautiful masterpiece we are when we stand side by side. We can learn to relate, communicate, forgive, and even love from that deeper place of light and love within us, while seeing the colors for what they are—beautiful expressions of divine light.

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Chapter One
Understanding Rainbows
My daughter stumbled out to the end of the sidewalk, having eaten a few mouthfuls of a breakfast she really didn't want, struggling to force the sleepy look from her face before the screeching of brakes and the hushed whoosh of a door opening announced the arrival of the school bus. She stood there, staring vacantly down the road, with her purple bookbag, her black, pink, and yellow leggings, and her bright blue sweater. She was a rainbow. And from the moment she woke up this morning, she was an emotional rainbow, too. Grumbling and grumpy at first light. Calm and quiet eating breakfast. Tense and irritable when searching frantically for her lost Science book. Affectionate when she kissed me goodbye. Smiling when I reminded her that Grandma and Grandpa were coming later. She's also part of a bigger rainbow. Once she boarded the school bus, she meshed with a larger rainbow of humanity. Kids of all ages,

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different sexes, numerous religious heritages, different ethnic backgrounds, various economic groups comprise a much larger rainbow at her elementary school. And the group of kids at her elementary school each represent their own rainbow, part of the bigger school rainbow, and part of a much bigger rainbow --the rainbow of all children across the world.

Needing Rainbows
Confusing, isn't it? When we stop to think of who we are, what groups we're part of, where we fit, we see that the more we look, the more we see. We mold and shape and lump and group ourselves, making sure that we belong somewhere. We don't want to be floating out there, unattached to any group, while the rest of world lives in communion. We join clubs and groups and revel in our ethnic differences. Underneath it all, we want to make sure we fit so we won't be alone. So we join rainbows on a societal level and feel some sense of comradarie and understanding. At least in this group we've joined, or in this family, or in this church, there are people who understand us.

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Yet a conflicting part of us tells us we must be individuals, too. Yes, we need to join things, but we need to retain our independence. You wear your hair short, so I'll wear my hair long. He just bought a truck, so I'll buy something different. We begin creating our own rainbows, out of little color labels we stick on ourselves. We need to be different, but we need to be the same. Our lives become a continual struggle of individuality and uniformity. We want to be alike enough to understand each other, but not so much alike that we lose our selves. After enough practice, we get used to our own rainbows and operate within them with little trouble. See? We're finished. We're independent, and we're part of a group. We fit and we stand out. The perfectly balanced life. Except that we're living on the surface. We're only looking at the rainbow, not the light underneath. When you and I understand that underneath all those "needs" (the need to belong, the need to be individual), there is a spirit that needs nothing. It's our selves that want. Our selves create identities and add labels to fulfill our needs. The spirit just loves.

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"There's no one like me on the face of the earth," we're used to saying. We think we are unique. We look different from other people. We sound different. We have different experiences, families, feelings, goals. But underneath, the sameness of us all gleams softly, waiting to be discovered.

Seeing Rainbow Expressions
What is a rainbow? Not colored light, not curved light; just light. The colors of the rainbow are simply different expressions of that same light. All those differences that seem to make us different on the surface are just that: on the surface. They don't change the identical Godlight that exists in all of us, in the quiet, all- loving place of the spirit. Our exteriors don't change the real us. All our struggling to show how independent and unique we are doesn't hide the fact that we're connected by something much deeper than any outer characteristics could show. Those characteristics come and go, but they don't define us. Those characteristics--whether you're talking about physical attributes like

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skin color or hair color or intangible characteristics like envy or hope-are merely expressions of our spirit, of our light. For example, suppose that you've had a really rough day at the office. You're on your way home when you realize the car is almost completely out of gas. You don't think you have enough to make it the last few miles to your house. You stop at the closest gas station and wind up waiting--five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes--as the elderly lady in front of you figures out how to use the gas pump. As the seconds tick away, you find yourself getting more and more frustrated. Finally, when you go inside to pay, the clerk is in no particular hurry to ring you up. You're mad. Does that mean you're an angry person? Will you carry that label with you every day of your life, defining yourself with it? Of course not. It was one simple incident in a lifetime filled with zillions of simple incidents. Perhaps you reacted more strongly than you usually would, but so what? You were stressed and you'd had a bad day. That

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doesn't make you an angry person. That anger was simply an expression of your energy, and it faded away as quickly as it came. That anger didn't make you any different. It was just how you expressed yourself in that instant. In this same way, the things we do in our lives, the labels we use to define ourselves, are simply expressions of what we really are. They are just little parts of us that come and go. They do not define us. How many expressions go across your face in a single day? Thousands, probably. When your husband asks when you are going to the store, your expression may show thoughtfulness, peacefulness, or irritation (or any number of other things). When your daughter shows you her report card, a difference expression crosses your face. Like these facial expressions that come and go, other expressions of the self are fleeting. Emotions are easy to see as temporary -- we experience so many of them in the course of a day. But it's more difficult to understand things like sexual preference, skin color, and moral values as expressions when they seem to stay with a person for an entire lifetime.

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Many years ago, when I was working as an editor for a large publishing company, a new editor joined the department. She was quiet, gentle. I was drawn to her. She and I became good friends very quickly, and we both acknowledged how connected--under the surface--we felt. Outwardly, our rainbows matched in many ways: our philosophies, our humor, our individual likes and dislikes made us seem more alike than we were different. After we'd been good friends for four years, she told me she was a lesbian. I nodded and smiled. "So?" I asked. "Did you already know?" she wondered. "Oh, I don't know. I suppose so," I answered. "Why didn't you ever ask me?" "It didn't make any difference," I said. She had trouble understanding why, if we were so connected, I had never asked her about her sexual preference. I had no answer then. But now I do. Her sexuality is just an expression of her spirit. And it's her spirit that I know; that's where the connection is. Her sexual preference does

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not change the way I love her at her essence. The sexual preference of a person is just the outside, the physical self, like one facial expression showing an inward truth. The same can be said for the color of the skin. Now, granted, the differences in our skin color cannot go undetected for four years. Our skin tones are no surprise. We know instantly when someone belongs to a different ethnic group than we do. It's too bad we can't get to know them in spirit first, so when they say, "You know, I'm black" (or white or whatever) we can say "That doesn't make any difference." We put so much emphasis on what we see. We live lifetimes making judgments based on our own perceptions. We group people together by race, by sex, by religion and then we place a mental stamp on the whole group. We write entire populations off as inferior to those who match our own rainbows. We even apply this visual judgment to ourselves. When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and loved what you saw? Few of us are happy with our physical

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appearances. Even fashion models continually diet, change their hair color, worrying about their muscle tone. Why do we do it? Why do we hurt ourselves? If we understood that what we are judging is the rainbow, not the light, we wouldn't feel the need to mold ourselves and shape ourselves and try to live up to somebody else's interpretation of beauty. If we understood that the us we are looking for is not someone we can see with our eyes in a mirror but someone we can feel all around and within us, we wouldn't place so much importance on what we look at with these human eyes. And maybe if we could be more loving with our selves and the physical forms we inhabit, we would be more loving with everyone around us. And the rainbows would fade.

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Chapter Two
Seeing Personal Rainbows

All the detachment we see in our society is a mirror of the detachment we feel within ourselves. When we say "People don't understand each other," we're really saying I don't understand me. "You can't find an honest person anymore" becomes I'm not honest with myself. "There's so much violence every where" is really I use violence to motivate my self. Healing starts with us. That's why it's important to get a feeling for the rainbows we represent personally before we look at the multitude of rainbows existing in our world. Change yourself and change the world, so the saying goes. But "change" in this sense, is not some action we perform, some spiritual exercise we practice to make our

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muscles stronger. Real change is a natural process like growing that happens only when we free our selves. An opening up. A blooming of our inner nature.

Rainbow Materials
From the time we are small, we go through our lives putting little colored labels on our selves. These labels have nothing to do with the light we are in the center of our spirits. The labels serve only to help us identify ourselves, to build our selves up, to make ourselves something. The labels are our protective answer to the need to belong and the need to be stand out. Each label has a color of the rainbow. Like this giant tagging system, each characteristic we claim as "ours" sticks to us, defining our shape, molding our identity. Perhaps you played football. You could have accurately said "I'm a football player." Add a red label. But that wasn't all you were.

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You took on other labels as well. "I'm no good at roller skating," or "I love to watch television." Blue label, purple label. Perhaps you didn't like to draw but you loved music. You liked to wear cowboy boots. You didn't like tennis shoes. You hated Chinese food, but preferred Mexican to any other. None of these individual preferences summed up the total you. They were little pieces of color that added to your rainbow. You accumulate these labels until you have a cloak of magnificent color, completely enshrouding you, protecting you, giving you something to look at in the mirror. But the rainbow is an illusion. It's what we see on the outside. It points to beyond. You are not the cloak you're wearing. You are much more than that.

Building Our Rainbows
It seems that it is part of our DNA to label ourselves. Our labels give us reassurance that we "fit" somewhere. I'm a skier, I'm a painter, I'm a writer, I'm a mother, I'm a wife--what do all these labels do? They

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serve to define a person by her actions. None of these labels are correct. Each of these labels is only an expression the person in her essence, her spirit. We build these little costumes to wear through our lives, woven of different colors and fibers. When I was small, I considered myself an artist. I played with dolls. I rode my bike. I roller skated. I made silly faces. I danced around the dinner table putting napkins on my head and acting stupid. When I got older, I managed pet stores, I wrote a little, I played guitar, I had too many animals, I drove a beat -up Mustang, and I had trouble trusting people. Then I became a wife, a step-mom and a regular mom, adopted more dogs, turned into a housekeeper, a nursery school teacher, an editor, and a freelance writer. Then I was divorced, the mother of two, the owner of a house, the driver of a Bronco, the caretaker of a dog and a cat, a student, a businessowner, a writer, a musician, a truthseeker, and a rapidly nearing-the-edge-of-insanity type A personality.

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Who am I? Light. Each of the roles I put on contributed another label to the garment I was manufacturing. It was a costume of great color, a rainbow robe, and it fit me as well as any fabricated covering could. But one day a seam ripped. And another. And another. And the rainbow robe fell away, leaving nothing except me in my essence. Just light. Same as you. The same as every person you meet at the library, at the store, at the gas station. Each person you see on the evening news. The same as the president. The same as every homeless person on the street. The same as each new infant struggling for life in a pediatric intensive care unit. Look at your hand. In the center of that hand, no matter what the color of the flesh, there's a glimmer of light. And in the arm, and the chest, and the head, and every other part of the mechanism we call the body. Inside that hand is the same light that is in Mother Teresa, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King. In that hand is the same light shared by all the greatest and most notorious people ever born.

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The rest is all rainbow.

Cloaks of Rainbow Colors
If you give most people a blank sheet of paper with the words "Who Am I?" at the top, they'll write you a brief resume of past accomplishments. From a CEO: "Chief Executive Officer of So-and-So Corporation, 4 years. Vice President of This-and-That Corporation, 12 years. Annual salary 1.2 million. Primary residence on Long Island, secondary residence in the Cayman Islands. Private jet. Graduated Harvard, with honors, 1962." From a college professor: "Professor of English, Loyola University, 1984-present. Member of seven adjunct committees, co-chair of Panel for Integrity in Education. Published in many academic journals. Mother of three children, ages 14, 12, and 9. Live in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and drive an Audi." From a mother: "I'm 30 years old and I've been marr ied seven years. I have two children, Nicole and Roger, who are five and two. I attended I.U. for a while, but didn't finish. I am starting a small editing business

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so that I can work at home, bring in some income, and still stay home with my children." These people are right, of course. Their biographies accurately represent some of the outer statistics in their lives. Those are the people they see in the mirror. But they are also much, much more than their biographies can tell us. Who are the people beneath the cloaks? What do those faces show when they have no facial expression? The biographies we weave are no more than a sum total of our expressions. Our list of past accomplishments and failures attach to us, colored labels on our cloaks. We wrap them around us and define ourselves with them. We know we're someone. We know we belong. There's no harm in having these cloaks. We do have realities to deal with, after all. Our children need us. We have paperwork to do. The dog has a vet appointment. Life calls.

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The only harm we do to ourselves happens when we think that the cloaks are all we are. We're so much more than that. We're peace, in our essence. True, unconditional love. Those rainbow colors are just one expression that shows itself to the outside world. They are something tangible or identifiable, something we can hold on to and say "This is me. I'm a writer." But I fool myself. I'm not a writer. I'm a spirit who writes. I'm not a mother. I'm a spirit who mothers. Are you overweight? No you're not: y ou're a spirit who inhabits a shell larger than society's thin standard. Are you near-sighted? Nope, just a spirit who exists inside a body that needs glasses. The costumes we wear are manufactured by our minds. They are cloaks of rainbow colors we put together ourselves, through the course of our lives. All those things that disappoint you about yourself--that's not you. That's just a label you've stuck on your identity cloak. It can come off as easily as it was put on. There's a spirit inside there that t he label can never touch. The spirit is perfect.

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Releasing the Cloak
The feeling of being more is both freeing and comforting. Finding our spirits beyond the limited vision of our minds is a process that eventually happens to everyone, when they are ready . The spirit leads so silently that you don't know you're being led, until one day you look in the mirror and know that's not all there is. Those wrinkles around your eyes that weren't there yesterday. That single gray hair that keeps growing back. You see yourself aging, on the surface, but inside you don't feel any different. You don't feel any older than you did when you were in high school. But the exterior is growing older, looking more mature, more settled. Why don't we trust that feeling we experience on the inside? We're not getting any older. Not the real us. Our physical bodies, these strange gangly mechanisms, are showing signs of overuse. But the spirit has no age. "Seeing is believing" has been a cliche that ingrained itself in our brains like no other. How do we know we're not getting any older? Can

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we prove it? Is there some kind of a scientific test to prove that the spirit doesn't age? Umm....no. How can we believe things we don't see? How do we know, if we take off these rainbow cloaks, if w e allow all expression to fade from our faces, that we won't wither and die? If we aren't Mom and Wife and Student and Employee, who are we? Can we take the risk of letting go of the protective perspective if we don't know what waits for us on the other side? Faith. We have proof all around us, proof from before we were even born. There are arms to uphold us. There is an eternal porch light gleaming, waiting for you to come home. Remember that look that Grandma used to give you, like you were the best child ever born? Or a gleam from a friendly teacher? Or a smile from a stranger? Those were the arms embracing you.

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Remember black days of confusion and turmoil that were suddenly shot through with a single, unexplicable bolt of hope? There's that porch light, shimmering brightly in the night, giving you direction. But we want it in writing. We don't have a lifetime written contract with our higher power that we will always be safe. Or happy. Or contented. We want something to see, to hold, to touch, that says "This Is True." The spirit doesn't need assurances. Only the self--the mechanism with the capabilities of seeing, holding, and touching--wants proof. But our spirits know those arms are there. And when we stop trying to uphold our selves, when we let our spirits shine through those restrictive rainbow cloaks, we get to truly feel those arms for the first time. And we all nestle together in those arms, free of our colors, free of our judgments of each other. We're all enveloped in this giant bear -hug of humanity, radiating light and loving each other. When we can shrug

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off our rainbow cloaks, the love comes pouring out. And by allowing ourselves to be embraced, we can embrace our selves and our planet. And all we need to start with is the single flicker inside us right now.

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Chapter Three
Seeing Our Own Rainbows
My son sleeps under a rainbow blanket I crocheted while I was pregnant. During the night, he wraps himself in it so completely I can't tell, from the bunched-up strips of color, which end is his head and which is his feet. Often I stand over him for the last few silent moments before he awakens and think about the different identities he already has. Nintendo player. Artist. Cat lover. Bunny lover. Outdoorsman. Friend-to-everyone (except his sister). Grandpa's boy. And he's only four. He already fills up all the primary colors of his rainbow, and then some.

Building Our Rainbows
When we're born, we haven't yet begun assembling our rainbows. We don't do things. We aren't trying to be anybody. We cry, and someone brings us a bottle. We cry again, and someone comes to hold and rock us. Nice.

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And then one day we realize that we're somebody. Somebody separate from Mommy. Somebody who can throw things. Somebody who can walk. We're independent. We're capable of seeing a toy we want and willing our fat little legs to carry us over to it. Our hands reach for the object of our desire. We can make things happen. There comes a time when our awareness of our selves changes from self-discovery to self-identity. Okay, so we've got this walking thing down pat. We've learned the basics about verbal communication and the do's and don'ts of temper tantrums. But what, exactly, are we? Are we a good basketball player, like Mike, or are we better at music, like Ludwig? Are we more like Daddy or Mommy? Where do we fit? In this process of trying on various roles, we adopt and throw away many different colors of the rainbow. If you've been around children, you know the process. From the time my daughter was three, people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. "A garbageman" was her first answer. After that, her career goals changed as often as her moods. At nine, she settled in to being a writer like her mom (notice me swelling with pride). The next step was to wrinkle her

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nose at the thought of writing and say "No way! I'm going to be an artist!" (see me deflate). In the middle of these career decisions came a staggering range of personality changes, emotional upheavals, and moral issues. She was seeking to define herself. Trying on roles, like a child trying on her mother's dresses. In our mid- to late teens, this playing becomes more serious. We feel the pressure of life, the pressure of our friends, and the pressure of our parents' expectations weighing down on us. What will we do with our lives? What type of people will we become? We start clutching at answers. Labels start flying around us; some stick, and some don't. Good student. Troubled teen. Drinker. Good girl. Christian. Athlete. Musician. Druggie. Things become even more confusing when our sexuality gets in the way. Now not only are we trying to define who we are and where we fit, but now we're experiencing hormone shifts that classify what we are. Strongly male. Timidly female. (Or vice versa.) Heterosex ual. Bisexual. Homosexual. For most of us, the desire is there and the avenue

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we follow (and the labels we adopt) stick with us throughout our lives. Promiscuous. Frigid. Aggressive. Shy. Macho. Sensitive. The really horrible thing about all this label-adoption is that while we are trying on all these labels, everyone else around us is doing the same thing. Our parents have already accumulated their store of labels. They've got themselves figured out and all wrapped in colors (or so it seems to us at the time). But most of us don't want the labels our parents have chosen, even though they seem to want us to follow their lead. We want to be ourselves. We reach for independence. We look to our friends. As our most accurate mirrors of what's really going on inside us, our friends help us pick labels that suit us on the surface. "Man, you look cool in long hair" encourages us to leave our hair longer than usual. "Who needs to work?" another friend says, inserting the seeds of nonconformity that our parents may not be happy with. Do we know what we are underneath all this label adoption business? Our spirits do.

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And our spirits allow us to pick up all these multicolored labels and stick them on our rainbow cloaks, covering up any little bit of space through which the light could shine. We line up like kids in the school cafeteria lunch line, those mauve trays before us with the five separate compartments. And we walk through the line, one after another, allowing the cooks to pile labels and labels on our plates. Som e we'll take in, others we'll leave. Then one day we wake up and we're married, and we have a nice car, a nice house, and a couple of terrific kids. Life is sedate, comfortable. We've picked a profession, we've piled up bills, and life seems to be accelerating at an alarming rate; but we're coping. And we watch the news at 6:00 and we see people rioting in the streets. We rant and rave about the injustice done to minorities. We discuss world issues with our college friends. We all seem to agree that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. And we drive by the homeless families on our way to work and look the other way. And we tell our children not to play with the "rough" kids down the block.

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And we see how different we are from each other and think the world would be a better place if only people were more like us. But what about us? No, not the us on the surface; the us underneath. Beneath that rainbow blanket. Beyond those labels. What are we doing, so silent, hidden way down there?

Rainbow Inspection
We all go through this process of label-adoption. As far as we know, everyone has, since the day Adam and Eve covered themselves in the garden. Metaphorically speaking, they put fig-leaf-colored labels on themselves. We're just continuing the trend. We cover our essence, the light, with bits of color. We think in order to be special, we must be unique. How can we be the terrific people we think we are if we're just like everybody else? No, we need to stand out. Make that blond hair blonder. Work on that bust line. Trim the waist. Be smarter than anyone else. Succeed. As we begin exploring the idea of colored labels, we tend to look for their point of origin. You may wonder who put the labels on you.

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Whose idea was it that you take Latin in high school? How in the world did you end up taking computer science? Origins aren't important. You may tell yourself that you went into business because your parents "made" you or you adopted the "good girl" label because of your parish priest, but wondering why and who and what only takes you further away from losing the labels. You can just drop them, at any moment. You can fall back on the real you, the light, the spirit. Once you get used to it, the cloak slides on and off easily. The first time you let it fall is the har dest. You know, we have to have a sense of humor about our pasts. Boy, there were some things in my life I really messed up. Decisions I really blew. Financial moves that should have sunk me. Emotional decisions about business events. Business decisions ab out emotional events. So what? Those skeletons in your closet. What's the big deal? Everyone has them. Don't be afraid of them. Laugh at them. How silly they look, tucked away like they have some sort of power over you. Just a pile of bones.

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Those are your skeletons, anyway. They belong to your self, that person who appears sleepy-eyed in the mirror every morning. Do you think your spirit made those mistakes? The past is gone. The future isn't here yet. Now is the only moment there is. In this moment, are you Mom, Wife, Husband, or Father? Are you Employee or Employer? Are you White or Black? Are you Liberal or Conservative? Are you Student or Teacher? Son or Daughter? Brunette or Redhead? Young or Old? These are not multiple choice questions. The answer is no. You, in your essence, are not any of those things. You define yourself with those colored labels. The person you represent in physical form adopts those labels so the mind has some sense of knowing itself, some sense of being different from everyone else. But the you we're talking about here is the real you, in spirit. The essence that is not different from anyone. It's the same light that passes through you and everyone in every corner of the world.

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By the time adulthood hit us (and most of us give in grudgingly), we find we have at least these labels: A work label A relationship label A sexuality label A political label A talent label A social issues label And numerous preference labels The paperboy has his own set of labels. Your mother has another set. Your children have another set. We define ourselves --and understand each other--based on the colors we show to the world. Let's adopt a ficticious person and name her Ellen. She's a thirty two year old single mom, living in a city in the midwest. The rainbow of labels she carries with her on a daily basis might look like this: Work: Relationships: Support role in large company Divorced but dating Mother of one child

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Sexuality: Political: Talents:

Heterosexual No one looks good enough Talking to people Writing poetry Tennis

Preferences: Fiction

Love stories

Classical or Jazz music Quiet dates Living in the suburbs Social issues: Contributes to funding for homeless Recycles Cares about environmental issues

These, of course, are by no means all the labels Ellen has adopted through the years. There is another level of labels; these only seen by Ellen herself. They are the little voices of insecurity that play inside her mind when she's feeling fearful of a situation:

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"I never could talk in front of a group." "I'd be a better mom if I'd stayed married." "I'm not attractive enough." "I'm not intelligent enough." "I'm no good at relationships." "I don't know how to take care of myself." "What I do doesn't make a difference." The little, pointed inside labels hurt more than the ones of the outside. They are total fabrications of the brain, not the spirit. If Ellen could silence the brain for just a minute, she would feel the love and peace bubbling up from within. The light would make itself known, if only she could still that inner struggle for the slightest moment. The labels don't matter. They're nothing. They're fiction. Just illusion.

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You are perfect in spirit, just the way you want to be, more than anything you dared hope. In your spirit, you are light, simply love. Complete, all-encompassing, unconditional love. Our minds convince us we're someone. Our minds suck up all these labels like paper clips to a magnet. We grab and hold these labels to convince our minds--that independent ego--that we are somebody doing something important. What would happen if we let go of our labels? If Ellen let the work label fall away and stopped being an Employee for one silent moment, what would happen? She'd probably start being Mom. When she stopped being Mom, she'd be the Tennis Player. And when that was over, she'd be the Advocate for the Homeless. But what if Ellen, one day, allowed herself a sweet few moments of silence, when she wasn't trying to be anyone? The labels fall away, having lost their pull to the magnet, and she stands there, revealed. Almost.

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Now the inner labels start stinging. "I should be doing something," she tells herself. "I'm not accomplishing anything just sitting here." I'm not being somebody doing something. The mind is very uncomfortable not being used. It will push us and prod us and finally say some really awful things to us in an attempt to get us moving again. But Ellen is not Mom or Tennis Player or Homeless Advocate. She's a spirit who mothers, plays tennis, and befriends the homeless. When Ellen can understand that her mind is not light, that her brain doesn't know the recipe for peace, that her labels do not define her at her essence, she'll get her first glimmer of that place over the rainbow. And that tiny little shaft of light will shoot around inside her, bouncing off those inner labels, trying to find a way out through the gaps in her rainbow cloak. She'll feel it in there, zooming around, changing her perspective. And she'll want more.

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Chapter Four
Letting Go and Loving Color
So we reach this point where we are beginning to understand that we've manufactured our selves. The self that remembers to get the oil changed and the tires rotated is much different from the spirit that shines in the midst of those activities. The person we see looking back at us in the mirror is just one expression of the light in our essence. The fact that I have blue eyes and you have brown is seeming less important, somehow. The reality that we all look in the mirror and see only a fragment of what we truly are brings us a few steps closer together. Can we really let go of the labels our minds have produced? If we let the rainbow cloak fall from our shoulders, what will we find underneath? The kids run in. Your daughter's friend had a wreck on her bike and skinned up her knees. She's sitting in the driveway crying. What are

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you going to do? You can't say "Sorry, but the me you're looking at is only one expression of my spirit," and refuse to help them. Of course you want to help. You grab some bandages and a couple of wet paper towels and hurry out to the victim. You patch things up, wash away the tears, and watch protectively as she walks her bike down the street to her house. Simply because we explore our spirituality doesn't mean we won't live in the real world anymore. When we let our rainbows drop for an instant, it doesn't mean we won't pick them back up. If means only that once we see the labels we wear, we understand that there is an alternative perspective available to us. It's just waiting for us to see it. Things that bothered the outside us don't ruffle us anymore. We begin forgiving ourselves for the little human goof-ups we experience every day. We begin to feel more tolerant, more accepting, of others. Once we see what we are in our essence, we can understand what others are in their essence. And we'll see that we're all the same.

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Changing Perspectives
When you let go of your rainbow, you are really releasing its hold on you. You are no longer a captive of a one-dimensional way of thinking. You see farther. You see another dimension to things, to relationships, to society. Will this cloak-dropping change your life? Often we worry that a shift in our perspective may radically change things. Will you feel the need for sweeping change? Will you give all your worldly possessions to the poor and change your name to something no one can pronounce? Dropping the rainbow does nothing except free you. You aren't obligated to cleanse your self or live according to any new laws. You aren't required to justify your actions, your morality, your spirituality. You're simply aware that there is a deeper level you've been missing. That level exists within each of us and every person we meet.

Letting Go
As we explore the possibility that we are much more than the surface "us" we've created, we feel drawn to know more. A craving for

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silence begins elbowing its way into our consciousness. Life suddenly seems so busy. When do you have time for quiet? Exploring the spirit beyond the labels can be as simple as a breath, as quick as a blink of the eye. One minute your mind is searching for an answer, and then next--there it is, within reach. You can experience that moment of silence any time you're not talking, listening, or being anyone. And you don't have to go searching for it. When you're ready, it comes to you. The moment can be uncomfortable. For some of us, it's downright terrifying. Most of us spend the majority of our days filling time. We schedule appointments, we plan events. We work through relationship problems. We need to be doing something. While we're doing the something we're doing, we're thinking of the something we'll do when we finish. While waiting in the doctor's office, we make plans for the weekend. In the middle of the weekend, we prepare for the week. We're uncomfortable with silence.

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Because in silence, what are we? If we're not fully invested in our colors, if we're not being Dad or Husband or Golfer, who are we? If we have no action to define us, will we cease to exist? It's in the stillness that the light begins to shine. But most of us fear that stillness, avoiding at almost any cost the moment where we have nothing to do, nothing to think, and no one to be. Our minds push us into activity, but the spirit waits patiently. Your spirit knows you'll find it when you need to.

Shining in Stillness
You find yourself looking for opportunities to be quiet. Perhaps the kids have gone to play at the neighbor's and, on impulse, you turn off the TV. The house is bathed in silence. Sure, the laundry needs to be done, but it can wait a few minutes. You sit down on the couch. You're not being anyone's Mom, anyone's Wife, or anyone's Employee. You feel a warm something spreading through your stomach, your chest. Your breaths come easier. Peace.

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And then your son comes screeching in from the yard. His sister hit him with a stick and he's crying for justice. Your daughter is close on his heels, preparing her defense. What did that feel like, a moment ago? And then--zap--as quickly as the peace came, it goes, and you're stuck right in the middle of being Mom. Those of us who are invested in our lives and the relationships in those lives cannot exist in silence, in peacefulness, all the time. We probably wouldn't even want to. It's easy to be enlightened sitting on a mountaintop with no schedules, no strings, no responsibilities. But living in the real world gives us opportunity to let the love flow through us. To our kids, to our neighbors, to our spouses, to our parents, to people we don't even know. It's an eternal challenge, to keep ourselves aware that we are more than our labels but to let the labels come and go as they must. It's all us. We need to love it all.

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Let's just not shortchange ourselves anymore. Let's remember that we're more than physical bodies, that we're more than a massive system of organs that live in reaction to demanding world. Seeing that we have labels is the important part. We can let go, when we want to. We can understand our lives, our selves, and each other. We can break down the barriers of color we set up between our selves. When it's time to put those labels back on, we can do it. But underneath there's now an understanding that the labels are only one part of us--one little expression of the real us--that exists in the light. That moment of understanding comes slowly to those of us who feel insecure doing nothing. We're afraid to let go of the labels, because we feel that those colors are what makes us good people. "I'm a better housekeeper than anyone I know." "I had more sales last month than any other salesperson." "I was promoted three times in two years." We need to understand that by out-competing other people, we don't make ourselves better. We're not good because of what we do. We're good because of what we are. What makes us breath, love, hope,

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help? Spirit. We don't need to feed our egos. We don't need to be the best looking, the most successful, the highest paid. We don't need to accomplish a ten-item To Do list every day in order to be fulfilled. We're already fulfilled. We're already whole. We're already perfect. We just need to let it shine through. So the next time a potential moment comes to you, take a deep breath. That's all. Nothing else. Just breathe. Let a couple of labels fall away. For that moment--even if it's the tiniest sand- speck of time-allow yourself to feel that you are much more than you ever imagined. Know that in your spirit you already know everything, understanding everything, are everything. In spirit we are all complete love, and we when take off those rainbow cloaks that we think make us "different," the light of love comes pouring through. It's a na tural process. We aren't trying to be loving. We aren't trying to be compassionate. We are love and compassion, and it shines from us unhindered.

Getting Past Fear
We all hold on. We clutch to unhealthy relationships. We keep platform shoes and old typewriters and 8-track tapes. We protect our

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bad habits; we stay in jobs where we're miserable. We keep playing messages we received as children over and over in our heads, long after we've reached adulthood. And we carry all this baggage around with us because we're afraid. What would life be like without this baggage? Like a set of multi colored luggage, they've all become color labels, of one sort or another. Our brains tell us we need them. "If I quit my job, how will I act? What will I do all day?" or "I know I should get rid of this old stereo, but what if I want it back some day?" When we're talking about something as important as the very way we understand ourselves, changing our perspective can be frightening. There's a big split between physical and spir itual life. We make the split bigger than it needs to be. When you understand that you are much more than someone's Mom or someone's Wife, you don't stop those relationships, you just understand yourself differently, more truly. When you understand that you are not a Tennis Player but a spirit of light who plays tennis occasionally, your perspective changes.

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Letting go of labels doesn't mean we won't use those labels anymore. It just means we stop kidding ourselves --short-changing ourselves--into thinking that those labels represent all we are. We come to love the labels we've adopted. We embrace them, because they are part of the surface "us," personas we needed to help us along this winding path into our own spirits. We see those parts of our lives not as roles we play but gifts, opportunities, to share the love inside us. In your essence, you are not someone's mother, but being Mom gives you a tremendous outlet for sharing the light that wells up within you. What happens when we allow the silence to fill us up? We may be afraid of the unknown. Those "what ifs" get pretty threatening, when our brains run rampant through our consciousness. Remember the baby who wasn't trying to do anything or be anyone? The baby just was. And when he cried, someone came and took care of him. Someone changed him and fed him and rocked him. Those arms are still there.

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When you stop being somebody doing something and allow the silence to bubble up within you, you feel those arms, supporting you, rocking you. Your spirit is so glad to finally meet you. Close your eyes and let yourself feel the love all around you, running through you, freeing you of your labels. See that the love is light. And understand that this is the point where the healing begins.

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Chapter Five
Getting Past the Past
As far as we know, we humans are the only creatures that have time-based peripheral vision. We can be standing in the present, flash back to the past, and make projections of the future. Our actions right now depend on what our mind shows us ab out what we've done before and what we might do tomorrow. Let's take an example. Suppose your friend calls and wants you to go to a movie. In that moment, you think "Well, I just went to a movie yesterday," and beg off. Or perhaps you're planning to go to a movie this weekend, so you say no. Your mind plays back what you did yesterday and what you might do next weekend, and so, even though you really like the friend and would enjoy the movie, you decline. Animals, our simpler counterparts, seem to do none of that. They live, they eat, they sleep, they smile (it's in the eyes). I've yet to see our dog Trixie convince herself to do anything. It's only a guess, but I would

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wager that she doesn't think "Hmmmm, I just woke up from a nap fifteen minutes ago, so I'd better wait to take another nap for at least an hour. If I sleep this afternoon, I might not sleep tonight." To Trixie, there is no fifteen minutes ago, no tonight. There's only now. How can we be alive in this moment if allow the moment to be laden with past mistakes and future fears? How can we ever get clear enough to hear our own voices if we carry all this baggage around with us? Almost every moment we live is a mixture of past and future. We get upset with our spouses because they always give us that look when come home late from work. We get frustrated with the kids because they never listen to us. Always and never are based on past and future. We're upset because not only have these people not lived up to our expectations in the past, but they're giving us more evidence that they will fail to do so in the future. If we were living in the moment, we'd be able to see the behavior, or experience, for what it is. It would wash over us like the first time it

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ever happened. We wouldn't feel the frustration of "knowing" it will happen again in the future and thinking boy, will we be upset when it does! Being here in the moment sets you free of reactions that pile up on you like dust on fine wood. In each moment, we can get that dust cloth out and wipe those reactions away. We can be new and fresh in the experience. We can deal with people and experiences honestly without the filters of the past or future to interfere. So what does this have to do with rainbows and light? Everything.

The Hold of the Past
Before we understand the difference between the rainbow and the light, we tend to think of our selves as the sum of all our experiences. Our biographies provide us with a history of events we've accomplished or goals we've met. We look in the mirror and we think of how we've changed and wonder what we'll look like in the future. But there's only now.

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The past is a memory and the future is speculation. Remembering and speculating are two favorite pasttimes of the mind. They have nothing to do with the spirit. The spirit just loves, in this moment, truly. When, forgetting spirit, we think of our selves, we reflect back over everything that has happened to us to get us here, as though the past events are still a part of the current us. We carry the past with us, allowing it to define the way we are, control the way we act. We even use the past to project how other people will act around us. But the past is just a series of stepping stones, stretched out across a wide, rippling stream. The sun shines down through the leaves of the trees along the bank. In some spots, the stream is deep, in others, shallow enough to see the moss-covered rocks and gold-brown pebbles along the bottom. Uneven stones divide the flow of the stream as it rushes toward a waterfall hundreds of yards beyond. You step from one stone to another, trying to keep your balance, as you move from place to place.

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One rock is slippery and uneven. It hurts the bottom of your foot. You bolster your courage and move to another rock. This one seems safer. Yet another rock up ahead looks ominous, but you know you have to try it. There's no where to go but onward. You would never think of picking up those rocks and carrying them with you. They would knock you off balance, of course. And you really couldn't carry more than one or two. The rocks weigh you down as you try to navigate the new rocks. The rocks sap you of your energy and freshness and r ob you of your chance for healing. Leave the past in the past. Those rocks will serve as stepping stones for someone following you. You don't need them anymore. Our past experiences are--and should be--special to us as we come to a deeper meaning of our selves. Looking back is okay, comforting, even--unless we get stuck there. Unless we look back and say "I should have been a better mother," or "I never should have quit that job." We do the best we can in the moment.

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And then we step to the next stone. If we're carrying rocks with us, we won't be able to balance on the new one. We're piling the odds against ourselves. We can love ourselves and see ourselves and understand ourselves with all these rocks stacked on top of us. The more time we spend in the past, the more we attach ourselves to the experiences that happened there. How many times a day do you think back to something you did, or some way you acted, or some situation that flattened you, and replay it? In those moments, you are back there, in the past. You don't see the birds flying around you. You don't feel the sunlight. You are reinforcing the experience you are trying to get away from (or get back to, as the case may be). The more energy you invest in thinking about the past, analyzing it, wondering about it, the more you make it impossible for miracles to happen right now. The rocks you carry with you aren't going to change simply because you're carrying them. They only weigh you down and make you weaker in this moment.

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Those aren't your rocks anymore. You're new, right this instant. Like Trixie, you don't have to worry about what you did five years ago, five days ago, or five minutes ago. Let whatever's coming in the next five years take care of itself. In this moment, you are not your past. You are not your labels. You're a spirit of Light, with no limitations, no restrictions, and no flaws.

Arm's-Length Closeness
On a larger scale, carrying the past with us separates us from ourselves and each other. We allow things we didn't live up to in the past to haunt us. And by allowing them to stay with us, they exert control over the moments we live now. Those skeletons can hurt only that person we see in the mirror. But until we know we're more than that person, the skeletons stand in the way of truth in our relationships, real meeting among spirits. When we feel the need to hide something in our past, we never feel "real" with other people. Whether we hide that something because

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we're afraid they will think badly of us or because we're trying to protect them from a painful experience we've endured, it only serves to separate us. "What will he think of me?" is a thought that's gone through everyone's head at one time or another. "What will they say if I do that?" we wonder. We live in a shell of protectiveness, trying to hide the "real us" from other people. And this protective shell requires an incredible amount of control on our part; we find ourselves watching what we say, do, and think. The more we control ourselves, the more we find that we need to control. And one day we wake up and realize that we're not controlling anything; the shell is controlling us. We've buil t it so well and so tightly that even our outside rainbow colors are covered up. All because we're carrying stones that are too heavy for us. Stones we don't have to carry. And even though we truly love those around us, we fear showing them what we think we really are. Our image of ourselves is truly stuck in the rainbow, forgetting the light at its essence. And we push ourselves and prod ourselves and try to further control ourselves

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into being what we want to be. We set a future goal that we try, time and time again, to live up to. And we beat ourselves up when we fail. And we forget one vital, freeing thing: There is no past and no future. There is only now. In this moment, the best we can do is enough. And we move on to the next stone.

Forgiving Our Selves
So we understand that the past keeps us from living freely in the moment, allowing ourselves to open up to the light beyond the rainbow. How do we get from here to there? Is there some magical process that can wipe away the years of guilt and self- persecution that skew our perspectives in this moment? Yes there is. It's called forgiveness. In thinking of our past experiences as stepping stones that have helped us get where we are now, we can accept that they happened for a reason. We can also believe that we did the best we could with the

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situation presented us. I've yet to meet a person who, at a crisis point in her life, said "I want to make the decision that will hurt the most people." Often the decisions we are forced to make seem to have no solution. On the surface, invested in our rainbows, we make the best choices we can with the resources available to us. When I was trying to put my daughter's bunny, Hopscotch, back into the cage, he kicked his feet wildly (not wanting to be corraled) and scratched my wrist. Did he feel remorseful? Did he feel the need to apologize for cutting me? No--he kicked harder. My injury wasn't intentional, nor did it change the way I feel about the bunny. Life happens. Sometimes we get bumped and bruised and it's nobody's fault, it just happens. Every person on the face of the earth has unwittingly hurt someone without the intention of doing so. Forgive yourself. You made all the choices you made for a reason, to bring you to this moment. This is the more important moment of your life. When you can be free of the past and unfearful of the future, you can live this moment honestly.

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And your light will beam through.

A Path of Forgiveness
As we escape the limited perspectives of our rainbows and learn to understand the light, there's no need to go anywhere. Finding a little corner of silence always helps, but there's no need to do anything special or wander off to the nearest mountaintop to feel contemplative. One day, when I found myself carrying so many stones I couldn't move, I happened upon a kind of meditation that helped me get free of the past. It was January and the sky was spitting big, wet snowflakes. I sat in my car in the parking lot of a hotel in Indianapolis and wrote in a small, dog-eared notebook. This was the first weekend in ten years I'd been a "single" person; the first weekend since I'd become a mother that I was not with my children. I was wracked with guilt. I was frozen with an overpowering feeling of doom.

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And, in the midst of my writing, as it often happens, a little shaft of light came to me in the form of an idea: "I need to forgive myself before I self-destruct." "Okay," I said internally, "I forgive myself." No, said the voice. Really. Look inside yourself, look at what's hurting you, and forgive youself. What else did I have to do? I wasn't supposed to pick up the kids for six more hours. I didn't feel like shopping or calling any of my friends who woud comiserate with me. I put the car and gear and began driving, following roads I'd known all my life. It was early on a Sunday morning so there was no traffic. I drove without thinking, and found myself in front of the apartment where I had grown up. I was amazed at how small it looked. "All right," I said aloud. "I'm game." And I took a deep breath. "I forgive myself for all those times I pouted and carried on. I know I didn't give my stepdad a chance and I now forgive myself for that. I know I practically drove my mom crazy with the religious stuff I

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used to preach at her, and I'm sorry that it was s uch a painful time for us both. But I was doing the best that I could then. I forgive myself." And then I drove to my high school. And by my best friend's house. And to the place I lost my virginity (really, I did). And to my first apartment. I went to every place that held a painful memory still active, for me, in the present. And in each place, I said aloud that I knew at that time I'd been doing my best and I forgave myself for not living up to my own expectations. Especially I forgave myself for all the times I hurt myself, and put myself down, and lost hope. And in each place, I felt as though I was leaving little stones, putting them back in the past, where they belong. At the same time, I felt I was gathering myself to myself, pulling pieces of me back that I had lost in those places, allowing myself to heal, to be whole again. In the years since that experience, I've never picked those stones up again. By now, of course, I have others, and I periodically have to go through the process of putting them back. The fact that I actually went to those places and said the forgiving words aloud had some significance

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for me, as though I knew that this was the one and only time I'd need to do that in order to forgive myself for those events. But whether you travel to the places on this earth where the hurting occured or you simply allow your spirit to heal you by bubbling up the forgiveness and love that flows from you naturally, clearing yourself of the past sets you free for the present. When you are accepting and loving and whole yourself, you can be accepting and loving and connected with others. And you'll be living the light, not the rainbow.

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Chapter Six
Weathering Storms

My daughter was furious with me. She stormed up the stairs, stomping her feet as loudly as she could, her footsteps proclaiming her frustration even when her mouth could not. The door slammed shut, punctuating our disconnectedness. I stood at the foot of the steps, looking up, grappling with my image of myself. Had I been wrong? Had I t urned into the kind of parent I didn't want to be? Did saying "no" in the wrong moment turn my affectionate, fun daughter into a raging pre-adolescent mess? I comforted myself with the thought that in spirit, I was okay. Outside, I was shaking. Confrontations at our house are fortunately rare. But when those storms erupt, sometimes they include hail and wind strong enough to

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knock you over. Sometimes life with an almost teenage daughter is analogous to April in Indiana; you might have sunshine and smiles on e minute and hailstorms and tears the next. My self wasn't understanding her. Her self wasn't understanding me. The people we were couldn't connect at that moment, even though in spirit, we were fine. In spirit, we weren't hurting. We loved each other beyond words. We understood without speaking. But, as I watched her small frame stamping up those stairs as though her anger was bursting through the soles of her feet, I knew that we were so wrapped up in our own emotional rainbows that we couldn't see each other. Once we reach the understanding that we are much more than the rainbows we represent, how can we exist in a storm -ridden world? How can we hold on to that peace when we are faced, almost every minute, with things to react to, emotions to deal with, s ituations to manage? Is it possible to be in touch with the Light and still live in the rainbow?

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It's not easy. But it's possible. No matter how far you've come in your quest for spiritual understanding, you will undoubtedly be faced with moments of trial. Whatever you fear--your boss, your mother, the IRS--will, sooner or later, be brought forward for you to confront. In any relationships, we'll experience misunderstandings, disagreements, or times of disconnection. As long as we inhabit human bodies, ther e will be a chance that we'll be misunderstood. And feeling misunderstood is one of the crummiest feelings there is.

Understanding Misunderstanding
When we are living in the rainbow, dealing with the ins and outs of our daily lives, why is it so terrible to feel misunderstood? Lack of agreement. Lack of compassion. When someone disagrees with us, we feel alone.

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When someone has no compassion for us, we feel unlovable. In spirit, we know we are never alone. In spirit, we know we are love. So why does the fear of being misunderstood have such power over us? From the time we are very small, we assemble these rainbow cloaks to identify our selves and give us some means of explaining our selves to the world. When you meet someone new and tell them what you do for a living, how many children you have, where you went to school, etc., they understand you. They look inside themselves and find similar happenings in their own lives. They know where you're coming from. You feel understood. When you have a fight with your lover, you tell your best friend. Your best friend has had similar troubles in the past and can empathize with you. You're understood. When you're considering changing jobs and don't know what to do, you talk to a friend who has been through a recent job change. His insight helps you deal with your situation, and you feel better, knowing someone understands what you're dealing with.

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In understanding, we feel joined with someone else. We're proving to our selves that, even in the midst of our problems, we' re not alone. The person in the mirror needs to know there's someone else standing right there beside her. What happens when we're misunderstood? You forget to call your girlfriend when you said you would. You've done it three times in the last month. She's pissed. She's convinced that you're trying to tell her something. You're convinced you just forgot. She doesn't understand you. What do you think? I'm a bad person. I'm irresponsible. I don't deserve to be in a relationship with someone as good as her. You quit your job as a stock broker to work on your uncle's farm raising cows. All your stock broker friends are making Big Money and continually put you down for your decision. You try to explain your reasons for leaving and they all begin mooing and talking with a southern twang. They don't understand you. How are you feeling? Boy, I must really look stupid to these guys. I guess it is pretty ridiculous, leaving Wall Street to raise

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cows. Maybe that was a bad move for me. I sure would've made a lot more money if I'd stayed where I was. Maybe I could get my old job back... We'll do almost anything to make ourselves fit, whether that means totally changing the way we feel inside or lying to ourselves or going against our better judgement. In the middle of a semester, I decided to leave college. There was a book burning in my soul that I had to let out. When I started to work on my assignments, the book would come out. I couldn't get anything done except the book that wanted its way with me. I told my advisor a nd tried to explain the depth of my conviction. She lectured me for thirty minutes, explaining the irrevocable damage I was doing to my future by not completing my degree. She didn't understand me. What did I say to myself? Jeeze, they must think I'm a fanatic or something. I guess I could try to finish the work...if I really put my mind to it and forced myself. I couldn't stand to be misunderstood. I needed the people I cared about to meet me where I was, to understand my experiences, to know who I was in the center of my being.

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And you know what? They already do. Whether your girlfriend or your mother or your boss appear to agree or disagree with you on the surface, in their essence, in the Light, they understand you. They are you. We're all connected, deeper than words, beyond colors, beyond labels. Their selves--those people in the mirror --might appear to disaggree. Those little legs stomping away from me on the stairs didn't show that they understood me. But the spirit, the light inside those legs knew. The professors who shake their heads and lament the wastefulness of my academic career think I've done a really stupid thing. But here's a valuable insight that proves itself true time and time again: People only agree with you to the point that you mirror them. That's worth saying again:

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People think you're right only if you reaffirm the choices they've made in their lives. If, in a letter to my advisor, I say --even jokingly--"I don't think God cares much about college degrees", that college advisor isn't going to like the comment. (Granted, that wasn't a real smart thing for me to do.) Of course she's not going to be comfortable with a statement like that. She's invested her whole life in the importance of college degrees. A comment like that threatens her . If all of a sudden you quit your high-paying management job and start working at a nursery school, your cohorts back at the office are going to talk about how crazy you are. Of course they will. They need to stay emotionally rooted in their place. Seeing you take the flying leap of faith is threatening for them. It makes them question their own choices. It shows them that someone they know has given herself permission to do what she wants. What a terrible option to have. Most people don't realize they have it.

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Similarly, when we start getting over our rainbows, people are going to look at us funny. The guys we used to hang out with will stare at us if we don't join in all the ethnic put -downs we used to participate in. As we start adopting a more gentle, accepting attitude about differences in people, the people who were used to us being totally invested in our rainbows will start feeling uncomfortable. "What are you now, some humanitarian or something?" "Who do you think you are, Ghandi?" You're misunderstood. What are you thinking? They will only agree with me to the point that I mirror them. Their spirits know that my spirit is finding it way out through all my labels, and it's scaring them. The put-downs of your friends no longer hurt you or change you. You don't find yourself second-guessing your decisions or longing to change back to the way you "used" to be. You simply understand that your new perspective touches some chord deep inside them that makes them uncomfortable. Some little ray of light flickers inside them, and they don't know what that flicker is.

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Simply because you're in touch with the Light, their own rainbows start to fade.

Healing and Helping
Just as other people agree with us when we mirror their choices, we agree with others when their lives echo our own. When we try to solve peoples' problems, we find it difficult to break out of our own experiences. Suppose you have a friend you've been close to since college. You planned your weddings together. You had your children at the same time. You go to the same church. You work out at the same club. One day, she pauses longer than usual in the dressing room. Her eyes are red. "I'm thinking about leaving Paul," she says. What do you do? All the memories of your connectedness come zooming into y our brain. You realize that your families won't get together for cookouts anymore. You remember the time another friend left her husband and made some terrible choices. You fear for your friend. You fear for

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yourself. If she's making this choice, the next time you and your husband have a rough storm to face, will you begin thinking of that alternative? Will you meet her where she is, or will you unconsciously encourage her to affirm your own choices? The best opinion is no opinion. In situations where peopl e are dealing with hurting life-altering decisions and ask for guidance, the words they need most to hear come from that person beyond the mirror. The only words that will ring true, the only words that will heal anything, are the ones they can whisper to themselves when they get in touch with their spirits. It's hard to see a friend in pain. When we've been through similar circumstances, the temptation to jump in and make things better is almost overwhelming. We think we know how to handle the situation. We know what they should do. We know they'd be happier if only they'd look at life the way we do. But, as rainbow -invested people, we forget that pain is only a surface ailment. Our spirits feel no pain. Our spirits are only love. Even

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though your friend looks miserable, cries, and agonizes over her situation, the pain isn't hurting the real her. If anything, the pain might be helping. Because at times of great pain, we look in the mirro more than others. We wonder what's going on inside us. We feel the shifting in our labeling system and struggle to put it all together again so it fits comfortably. That's a great opportunity for letting go. A great opportunity for faith. In those moments of deepest, darkest despair, we have a sure shot of feeling those arms wrapped around us.

Being the Source
When we live in the rainbow, being misunderstood is a dangerous thing. Being misunderstood means being alone, isolated, unloved. Being misunderstood may even mean being wrong, which makes a question the very "rightness" of our being.

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Once we get in touch with our spirits, we know we can never be misunderstood. Although our conscious minds tell us otherwise, the spirit needs no explanations, no analysis, no understanding. The spirit has everything it needs. Only our bodies, our minds, feel misunderstood. Only our mouths have trouble communicating. Only our hands have trouble reaching out. The spirit is love. When we truly understand the difference between self and spirit, we can be our own source of understanding. The fun ny looks we get from our parents when we tell them we're going to skip the family Thanksgiving dinner and volunteer at the local homeless shelter slide off us, unstuck. We know that they're questioning our judgement, our love for them, and our commitment to the family. We also know that our choice--doing what's right for us--shows them that they can do the same for themselves. So, to some degree, we might be frightening them with our freedom. On some level, they might feel compelled to do the same thing.

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But we no longer turn those looks inside our selves and feel misunderstood. We know that in spirit, we are connected. We know we have understanding. We understand our selves. We don't need to convert other people to our way of thinking; we love them and appreciate them for the choices they've made and live free in the light of our own. And we can turn that understanding out and apply it globally, to all people we encounter, all groups we face, all factions of society that stand against us. The light is in there. We understand each other. The faces that look back in our mirrors in the morning are covered with delusive labels that block the light. But we're shining, inside. And, sooner or later, those rays will come out.

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Chapter Seven
Some Uncoloring Exercises

We are beginning to understand that we are more--literally-than the eye can see. We're more than our minds can grasp. We're more than our limited perspectives of our selves have allowed us to understand. We're more than the color of our skin, eyes, or hair. More than our sexual preference or religious affiliation. More than the string of experiences that have shaped our outward lives. This sense of looking beyond appearances may bring up new feelings as you start to explore perspectives previously unav ailable to you. You may question whether you're taking this spirituality thing a bit far. Your friends may wonder what's up with you. The best thing about getting in touch with your spirit is that it doesn't change you; it makes you more you, the you in your essence. You

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feel more centered. You stop thrashing as much through your everyday life. A sense of peace and general everything's -okay-ness starts to heal the frantic hurting places inside you. When you begin exploring spirituality and allow yourself to open up to the possibilities your own spirit can offer you, the real change happens deep inside. Once we've come to the understanding of the difference between self and spirit in our selves, we can understand the difference in other people. The individual rainbows worn by others are less important now. You begin to enjoy the outer differences you see in other people because they no longer threaten you. You don't feel compelled to change them, or challenge them, because they are different from you. You know they aren't different from you. In the essence, where it matters, we're all the same.

Erasing Ourselves
In this first exercise, you settle in to a feeling of rainbow - lessness. Sure, you've been reading about it for several chapters, but what does the light really feel like? Let's take a shot at getting there together.

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Consider where you are right now. What's the position of your body? Are you sitting or lying down? In a chair, in bed, or on the floor? Run through a mental checklist, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, finding out how you are feeling. You may find you have a headache, tightness in your neck muscles, soreness in your arms. The forehead, eyes, mouth, and jaw usually store up quite a bit of tension as we strain to understand what we're reading. Perhaps you're sitting in an uncomfortable position. You don't need to make yourself more comfortable. You don't need to relax or force your tightened muscles to loosen. Just be aware of any tension or discomfort your body is feeling a t this moment. Know that each feeling and thought that pushes its way through our brains has its own color. Envision yourself, sitting there as you are now, striped in breathtaking rainbow colors that seem to shine from an internal light source. Imagine the colors getting brighter and brighter.

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And brighter and brighter, until you almost can't look directly at them anymore. And just as they get to the moment of the most painful brightness, the colors are overtaken by a beautiful white Light. Now, as you sit there, the light of your spirit is blazing out beyond the colors of your rainbow cloak. The rainbow fades into the light from which it came. Your form, without its headache, its muscle tension, its grasping brain, sits there right now, holding this book, bathed in radiance. It's the real you. The light is stronger than the rainbow, but as an item of true strength, it does not have to exert itself over the delusions of our minds. When we look, we find it. When we allow ourselves to open to it, it shines automatically. When we let the rainbow cloaks fall from our shoulders it shines out unrestricted. Our bodies are our only restrictions. But things we claim define us also limit us.

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As light, you are more than your body. As spirit, you reach out beyond the length of your arms, out past the scope of your vision. The love that shines from you touches people near and far. Like a string of dominoes, the love that starts with us touches someone close and they, feeling loved, touch someone else, and that person, benefitting from the same love, touches other people. The light lives on, passing through the rainbows of countless people, eventually circling back around, just when we need it, and touching us.

Origins of Light
Does the light begin with us? When we get in t ouch with our spirits and allow the light to shine through us unhindered by our rainbows, can we take credit for the love that shines through? Depending on your religious beliefs (which are one expression of your rainbow), you may have different views from mine on this matter.

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Some philosophers will tell you that God is spirit that exists in each person, that the thought of a God separate from humans is a mythological adaptation of Western thought. Some theologians will tell you that God is a mystical somet hing beyond definition, making him or herself known to man in three different understandable personas: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Some learned scholars will pooh-pooh the idea of a personal God, saying that we as a society are looking for an eternal fath er figure to handle our problems for us. I understand the light, our light, to be parts of individual Godlight. We do not define God anymore than we can define our selves. But I feel God as the greater something I cannot comprehend, all loving, all knowing, all comforting, the sum of all the tenderness and gentleness in a seeking universe. The source of the light within me is the greater light, the Original Light. This Light flows through all living things, not just me, not just you. It's the natural proces s of our spirits to be conduits for that love that cycles through our world on both surface and spiritual

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levels. When we drop our cloaks, the love cycles through us unrestricted and we have become aligned with our purpose on this earth. But that's just my understanding. And intellectual understanding is a function of the brain. Which is part of the rainbow, not the light. So where does the light come from? Am I talking in circles? Not intentionally. Whether you believe in a Bigger Something that is the source of all light or you believe that we are each parts of that Bigger Something and it does not exist apart from us, understanding the cyclical nature of the light is the important part. It's in our nature to give love. We are love, in our essence, and we feel best on the surface when we allow the love to find its way through us. The more labels we put on our selves, the thicker our cloaks, the harder it is to give love. Underneath, the less love we're able to give, the worse we feel about ourselves. And, a s the amount of love we give away dwindles, we find ourselves receiving less and less love from those around us. It's a cycle.

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We allow love to flow through us because that is our nature and we feel best when we're being true to it. Birds sing. Grass grows . Stars shine. We love.

Spreading It Around
The next time you're in a room with other people, you can try letting some of your light out and watch what happens. Witnessing the automatic passing-on process affirms the concept we've been exploring. For example, suppose that you're in a crowded restaurant. Colors, odors, sounds swirl around you. Your senses have an incredible variety of resources to choose from. In a moment when you're not involved in conversation, allow yourself to look around the room. Firs t notice as many differences as you can among the people you find there. Skin tones. Eye color. Hair. Expressions. Gestures. Some people are reserved and quiet. Others are animated. A range of emotions will meet your eye. Happy, silly, sad. Angry, tense, affectionate. You'll see all kinds of relationships. Friends, lovers, relatives.

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See how individual people make themselves. That one wears bright pink, while another wears brown. This one smokes flamboyantly, while another holds her cigarette at table level. This one laughs loudly, while another merely smiles. Feel your light gleaming strongly in the middle of your chest. As you scan the room, allow yourself to sense the light in the middle each of the people you see. Their gestures, their dress, their exter iors are only expressions of their inner light. It's in there, even if they don't know it. Suppose you have a surly waitress. She's feeling bad about herself, about her place in her life, about her job in general. She's tired of being ordered around, under valued, and underpaid. She goes to each table, spreading her negative energy around. After you finish eating, you leave an extraordinarily large tip for her. She returns to your empty table to retrieve the tip, sees the amount, and is surprised. Something inside her loosens. "Maybe I do a better job than I thought," she thinks, and her self-concept improves just a bit. "Maybe this isn't such a bad job after all," she says to herself. "There are still some nice people out there." And she goes to the next table feeling a little better about herself and her

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position. And each of the people at the tables she visits benefit from her improving feelings about herself. And those people go out into the world spreading their feelings of goodness around. The giving, not the money, is the point. When you become a conduit for that love to come through you, it goes where it need to. It circulates and cycles through people, going from one to another unnoticed. By embracing our light, we can release our rainbows.

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Chapter Eight
The Illusion of Becoming

My son learned to walk suddenly. Oh, the process had several very definite stages. There was the Ican-pull-myself-up stage, in which he'd clutch at the arm of the couch and, with a white-knuckled death grasp, pull his litt le round body into an upright position. Then, pleased with his new perspective, he'd squeal and raise one arm over his head, wanting everyone to see. Then--plop--down on his bottom he'd go. After that, there was the Look-I-can-move-while-I'm-holding-on stage. He could hang on to the couch, more secure now on his tottering legs, and move a step to the right or a step to the left. One day he got tired of the couch. He was, I assume, fed up with watching all the other humans in the house walk around unaided. He turned, set his sights on the middle of the living room, and let go.

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He was walking. One minute before, he hadn't known how to walk. We fool ourselves into thinking that becoming is a gradual process. Someone might argue that my son was preparing to walk-becoming a walker--since the first day he tried to crawl. Or from the day he was born. But no matter how we look at it, the change really happens suddenly. One minute you weren't yet born. (Your mother probably remembers that moment very well.) The next , there you were, pink and squalling and probably mad as hell. One minute, you hadn't graduated from high school. You stood in line, with that hot robe and the hat that wouldn't stay on right, and waited nervously for your name to be called. When you heard your name, you crossed the stage and accepted your diploma. Just a few seconds before, you hadn't graduated. Now, you had. Every change can be traced to a single moment. When you plant a seed, it remains a seed until that first green, tender shoot parts t he

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earth and shows itself. Now it's a plant. You may not have been around in the moment it happened, but it did happen in one precise moment. There was a single microsecond in which the green growth first poked itself through the moist dark earth. Understanding, like all other change, happens in one single instant. You may tell yourself that it is a process; that alleviates you from feeling pressure to look for the change too soon. But understanding, loving, realizing what we truly are takes no time at all. In the time it takes to read one word, take one breath, or hug one person, you could be illuminated by your own light.

The Trap
When we are stuck in our rainbow -construction process, we are eternally caught in the trap of becoming. What do you want to be when you grow up? What will you do when you get out of school? What is the next step in your climb up the corporate ladder? And then what?

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It's a widely accepted belief that humans are continually growing and learning animals. In fact, I made the rather b old statement in a paper I wrote upon my return to college that a person not growing would die. I meant it figuratively, of course, but I meant it. A person not exploring, not learning, not seeking, would have no purpose, I thought. A person not becoming something, bettering herself, achieving a new understanding, striving for a deeper spiritual base, would eventally turn pale like a plant without sunlight and wither away. Boy, was I wrong. I didn't know then that is is the self in the rainbow that is never content. Life becomes a constant process of self- refinement, selffulfillment, self-satisfaction. When you're fully invested in your rainbow, you feel this continual push of a hand in the small of your back, causing you to look for the next step. You jus t can't stop. In college, you look forward to the day you graduate. Then there's a job. A new car. Then a relationship. The first house. Kids. Dogs. A better car. A bigger house.

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On a different level, you may search for meaning. You read. You attend workshops. You go to church. You try various avenues of enlightenment. You're becoming a more spiritual person, you think. Hmmmm. That's what I thought. My own search for enlightenment was driving me crazy. There was something, somewhere, I just wasn't understan ding. There was some philosophy, I thought, that someone practiced somewhere in the world that would sum up my hope for humanity, my love of God, my frustration with the game of Us-and-Them played by seemingly everyone (including the traditional Christian churches I'd attended). I was consumed by my quest. I read a library full of spiritual books. I went to workshops. I saw a psychic, twice (don't ask). I saved my money and traveled half-way around the world to visit the mountaintop mansion of a popular New Age leader. "What in the world are you doing?" my mother asked.

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"I'm becoming more aware of my spirituality," I told her. She mumbled something about having me committed and never mentioned it again. I was becoming. I felt, somehow, that I was almost "there." The hand in my back was pushing harder than ever. I didn't realize that it was my own hand.

The Effort of Becoming
There are several problems with becoming. The first and most obvious is that by setting your sights on the future (and what you'll be when you get there), you totally lose contact with what you are now. Right this minute. And this minute. And, now, this minute. The second problem is that you have to exert a lot of effort in order to become. What will you do when you get out of college? "Oh, I plan to become a teacher." That means you'll mold your self and shape your self and do whatever you have to do to turn yourself into a member of a profession

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called teaching. You'll do all the paperwork and the legwork and the emotional work you need to so that you can live up to society's preset guidelines. And that's okay. It's a natural part of everyone's rainbow assembly process. But what if someone told you that you don't have to become anything? You already are. But life would be so much easier t o live if we knew that in our spirits we were already everything we wanted to be. We wouldn't push ourselves so hard. We wouldn't hurt ourselves by continuing to set our goals on things just outside our reach. We wouldn't put off our own happiness until we could just get to that all- elusive moment when we're rich enough, or secure enough, or fulfilled enough. We're everything enough, right now. And we'll find that understanding is waiting for us, any time we choose to see it.

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Being
My husband and I drove to our favorite bookstore, which was 50 miles away, with the full intention of bringing home way too many books. In our quest for spiritual understanding, we'd accumulated quite a collection of New Age, Christian, Zen, Buddhist, and Taoist texts. We wandered the philosophy and religion aisles, pulling out books, reading sample pages, loading up. About thirty minutes into the experience, I started feeling out of sorts. I looked over at him and he knew I was bugged. "What?" I grumbled. "Oh, I don't know." We went back to looking. Several more minutes passed. My irritation was getting intense. It was unlike me, the me I knew in my rainbow cloak, to get agitated for no apparent reason. He looked up. "Do you want to go?" I didn't want to be difficult.

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"I don't know," I said. By the time we got to the car, I was truly angry. I had no explanation of my feelings; my husband was at a loss in trying to figure out what had happened to me in the store. He asked me a few random questions and tried to change the subject by suggesting I pick out a place for dinner. I shrugged and said nothing. He looked at me, bewildered. "Do you have any idea what's bothering you?" I glared at the bag of books between my feet. "I don't know," I said. And then I did know. I was tired of becoming. I was sick of searching, of looking, of longing to be whole. The idea that I would have to read through yet another pile of spiritual books was making me furious. I was beginning to suspect that even after I poured over each of those books, I would s till not have the answers I sought.

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And in that moment I had a sense of my spirit I'd never felt before. The light reached up and shot out through all the rainbow labels and the becoming traps I'd placed upon myself. I wasn't becoming anything. I already w as. In that moment, I was light. My spirit wasn't reaching. My spirit wasn't looking for anything. My rainbow, my mind, had convinced me that in order to keep growing, I had to keep searching. The search is an illusion. It's all right there, inside you, right now.

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Chapter Nine
Letting Other Rainbows Shine

Several years ago I had a dog named Larry. Larry was a sheepdog, big and hairy, with one unseen blue eye and one brown. I'd always wanted a sheepdog puppy, and my mind was filled with expectations of a huge animated teddy bear, my best buddy, a lovable companion. Larry wasn't playing along. He'd been the biggest male in the litter, and from the first time I'd seen him, he'd been forging his role as the bully of the family, pushing the other puppies around, rolling them away from their mother, jumping on them and biting their ears. "How cute," I said. Nine months later it wasn't so cute.

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Larry had become a bully in our family. He was the dogequivalent of a cocky eighteen year old boy, full of himself, sure of his strength. When my daughter --then five--would try to play with him, he'd treat her like he had his littermates. I was getting worried with his aggressiveness. So I enrolled him in dog training school. We showed up the first night to an incredible mix of dog species. Each dog stood or shook or paced near its owner. Yorkies and Rotweilers and everything in-between. The owners all stood regarding each other nervously. A huge rubber mat lined the outer edges of the room, encompassing us all in a big black oval. The object, we were told, was to begin walking with our dogs around the mat. The instructor blew his whistle and we all began walking counter -clockwise, dragging our canines along with us, like we were participating in some oddly conceived cake walk. Larry wasn't about to cooperate. For that matter, most of the dogs weren't either.

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The instructor tooted his whistle and shook his head. "No, no no, people," he said. "You are supposed to control your dogs. Your dogs don't control you." And he proceeded to show us what he meant. He walked up to a woman timidly holding the leash of a tiny Westie. He held the leash tightly in his hand, said "Heel!" and yanked on the leash so hard that the puppy's feet came clean off the ground. The owner stood by, blushing. He walked that dog once around the ring, very fast. The rest of us stood silent while our dogs figetted nervously, sniffing at each other. When he reached the point where he'd begun, he swung the leash carelessly around to his other side, dragging th e animal like it were a toy duck on wheels. After frightening the animal into submission, he flashed a smug smile at the rest of us. "That's how you do it," he said. I looked down at Larry. He was hopeless, I knew. I was hopeless, I knew. I couldn't force my dog to comply to such a ridiculous practice, no matter how ill-behaved he was. I couldn't force him to walk around some stupid ring and learn appropriate people behavior and jerk his

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leash so hard his eyes would roll. Why was I involved in this relationship with this dog? Was it to control him, to turn him into the Perfect Dog I saw in my head? What about his own nature? Why wasn't I respecting that? As people, we often try to get other people to walk around out little rubber mats. We jerk the leash. We bark commands. We tell ourselves that it is for their own good. When we live in the rainbow, we need to be convinced of how "right" we are. When we discuss religion or politics, we're not wanting to be enlightened by someone else's point of view, we're wan ting to convince others that we're right. When we walk away from a discussion in which we've made our point, we think "My, that was a good talk." When we leave a discussion where we feel that others disgreed with us, we have this hurting, Nobody -listens-to-me kind of feeling.

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Not Being Right
The world continues to operate on a level that is beyond right and wrong. The sun shines, the flowers bloom, streams flowing into other streams. Animals live and die. The earth goes through its cycles of birth and death. Storm clouds gather, expend themselves, and the sun comes back out. None of this has anything to do with who's right and who's wrong. As people, as rainbows, we are invested in our arguments. We take sides (Us-and-Them) and find evidence to support our positions. When you get in touch with your light, you realize that there is nothing to take sides about. All the disagreements that happen on the surface begin to seem a little silly. You find yourself less willing to take sides, less eager to state your case on any given matter. It's not as important to be right.

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And it's not a behind-your-eyes "Oh these people don't really know what they're talking about" kind of feeling. More of an accepting "Whatever they believe is right for them" understanding. You don't have to point fingers at people anymore. Or label them wrong. Or spend countless hours and energies trying to convince them of their error. You start to understand that, on the surface, you'll only agree with people to the point they mirror your decisions. A friend feels strongly about ecological issues. "You should be recycling," he says. "I know," you say. "And how come you still use XYZ products? Don't you know they pollute the environment?" "I forgot," you mumble. "And what's this spray can of veget able oil doing in your cabinet? Don't you care about our environment?" You put your hands on your hips. "You're really turning into a fanatic about this," you say.

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And so a heated debate ensues. He didn't mirror your choices, obviously. And you, feeling threatened (and maybe a little guilty), could not mirror his. Who is going to walk whom around the rubber mat? What a waste of a good evening! Why be right and lose the moments we have now in disagreement? Underneath all our rainbows, there is no cause to fight for. There are no battle flags to wave. In spirit, we are love pouring through. Love that is not threatened by differing opinions. Love that does not waver because an individual, a group, or a society does not mirror our rainbows.

Respecting Rainbows
As we come to a sense of true love with ourselves, we open up to that possibility in others. When you realize that you are more than your rainbow represents, you find an unconditional acceptance waiting for you. Other people are more than they appear.

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They are not their skin color, eye color, or sexual preference. They are not the opinions they offer out. They are not the causes they represent. We know them on a deeper level, in Light. Only our outsides are different. When we meet with people one-on-one this sense of understanding usually forces itself into our consciousness, whether we are living fully in the rainbow or are aware of the light. Consider two people on differing sides of a very emotional issue. Each person belongs to a group that has organiz ed against the other. Each person will heatedly defend her position. Each person is convinced that the other is totally wrong. There may be demonstrations and marches. There may be sit-ins. There may be flag-waving and name-calling and other showings of force and violence. But one day the first person goes for a walk in the woods. Unknown to her, the other person is doing the same thing. The birds

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sing. The breeze puffs at the budding leaves. The people meet, independent of their causes, and, smiling, say "Hello." We are not our opinions. Simply because our rainbows don't match doesn't mean we don't match. We can allow other people to have their opinions. We're learning that voicing our opinion only starts an action to which there will inevitably be a reaction. It's basic cause-and-effect. You say something, I say something. You believe in one cause, I believe in something else. That doesn't mean we can't discuss things or that we have nothing left to talk about. Talking, perhaps unfortunately, is one of the few methods we have for bridging the perceived gap from rainbow to rainbow. It's a proven fact that we communicate with each other without opening our mouths, but, from years of training, mouths pop open almost unbidden. Words come out. We want to be under stood. We want to understand others. Just realize that there is more beyond the talking. Words are only symbols that point to a mean somewhere deeper. Emotion that gets wrapped around words--like when I raise my voice in a show of force to

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make you understand me--is simply the fear the ego has of being misunderstood. See it for what it is. And feel the light shining inside. The light that does not have to justify itself, that does not have to explain anything, that has no opinion on the surface issues of li fe. Then we can throw away our mats.

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Chapter Ten
Seeing Beauty in Rainbows
What is it about dandelions that is so annoying? The passage of winter into spring in Indiana is not a smooth process. One glorious day and the sun is shining hotly in a bright blue sky. You wander outside in your traditional April garb --sweatpants and a sweatshirt--and are amazed to find that it's shorts weather. Your heart races as you rush upstairs to find those summer clothes that have been packed away for months. The day is filled with that exuberant feeling of an early spring, of the promise of returning summer. Get out the baseball bat. Find the frisbee. And the next day, it snows. Not a little snow, either, but a big, sticking, wet -snowflake snow. April is an entire month of Spring-tease. And the first morning you see that gleaming yellow head of a dandelion in your yard, you are extremely happy to see it. Long before

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the grass gets green or the trees hint that they might eventually bud, a dandelion gathers its nerve and st icks it big bold head up into the fickle spring breeze. Dandelions are a sign that spring really will come. Eventually. But the closer spring comes, the more signs there are. One morning I awoke to a pink sunrise and a yellow carpet completely surrounding the house. It was breathtaking. But soon those yellow sundials grew long, thin necks and puffy white heads. The white stuff made me sneeze. The kids tracked dandelion guts all through the house. They weren't beautiful anymore. They were an eyesore. An irritation. Now the dandelions were no longer a sign of a soon-to-berealized spring but a germ that polluted the continuity of the lawn. What is it in us that makes us judge things and want to weed things out? Who was the first person to call the dandelion a weed and decide it needed to be dug up, while wild violets should be allowed to stand?

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Beauty and Newness
Apparently, time has something to do with what we view as beautiful. The first time you see something, if it represents something you really want, you're likely to think it's beautiful. But after a while, after seeing that something for a certain length of time, you become desensitized to it. I have a friend who moved to Kauai many years ago. She was able to purchase a small house right on the ocean, surrounded by palm trees and exotic tropical plants. It had been her dream for all of her adult life to get back to Hawaii (she'd lived there as a small child). Of course, she was overcome by the beauty. She spent almost every free waking moment on the beach--for a while. Two years later, she walked by the ocean on the weekends and sometimes picked up trash that tourists would leave there. Five years later, she visited the beach --her beach, right in front of her house--only once a year, when she had her annual Fourth of July party. Even in paradise, she'd become desensitized. Think about someone you love. When you were first getting to know her, do you

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remember thinking she was beautiful? And now, after forging a relationship with the person, after all the ups and downs and little insights you've gained into each other, your perspective changes. You see beyond the physical now, and beauty, in its outward sense, may not occur to you as it once did. Once we get to know someone, or something, or someplace, intimately, that infatuation with beauty gives way to something deeper. You can apply this "beautiful newness" concept to anything or anyone. Your new car astounds you, at first. It's so red, so perfect, so fast. All the gadgets inside excite you. Every time you walk across the parking lot and see it waiting, you tell yourself what a good decision you made. But eventually the car gets older. You get used to driving it every day. The newness wears off and you find yourself stuck with the day -in dayout routines of dodging downtown traffic, having the oil checked, filling the tank, and all the other ho-hum aspects of car ownership.

Seeing Real Beauty
Why is it that we are so aware of something's beauty when we first see it? Why does that beauty --or our awareness of it--fade?

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The process of becoming desensitized can only happen when we carry bits of the past around with us. When each moment becomes new, when we're not carrying those stones of guilt or judgement with us anymore, everything around us becomes beautiful. We find ourselves living in a state of continual wonder. Why is the rainbow so touching? No matter how much our adult minds try to explain it away, it still seems like some sort of magical aura encircling our lives. We can see the beauty in the rainbow each time it appears, perhaps because it happens so rarely. If you awoke every morning and saw a rainbow outside your window, would it cease to be beautiful? No, but it wouldn't be such a big deal, either. We can find true, indescribably beauty around us every moment of our lives. Our senses would be overwhelmed, of course, but the potential is there. When every moment is new, we can marvel at the complexity of our world and the diversity of creation. We no longer see a pidgeon and call it a flying rodent (quote from a friend, not my own) because we don't

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feel compelled to judge it or fit it into some kind of Good or Bad category. Simply that it exists, that it is different from all other birds, is miracle enough. We look at people in our lives and are awestruck by how unique and beautiful and marvelous they are. The range of characteristics in the human animal, in human relationships, is staggering. His sense of humor is so different from yours, but you two understand each other. Isn't that a miracle? Her skin is many shades lighter than yours, but you two connect in a place much deeper than skin. Amazing. The only thing we need to do to reach this perspective of beauty is to allow everything to be new to us in this moment. When you walk in and see your kids playing Nintendo, don't look at them as the parent you've become over the last ten years; look at them through a visitor's eyes, as though you're seeing them for the first time. Notice their hair, their eyes. The way they smile or frown. The way they talk to each other and to you. The gestures they make. Any parent has the continual pull to look at their children as extensions of themselves, things they can mold and shape, people that

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directly reflect what they've been taught. This turns my son's beligerent remark to his sister "Hurry up, Butthead!" as something I've failed to teach him about compassion and tolerance. By witnessing that as a parent, I immediately take it into myself and feel the need to change or correct it. By witnessing that as a visitor, I can see the behavior as something he's doing, not something I've done, and I feel the strange wonderfulness of the rainbow shining around me. That doesn't mean I won't try to guide that energy into a more acceptable form of communication, but it does mean t hat I will no longer take his ourbursts personally. I know that his expression doesn't make me- -the light--anything. It's simply part of his learning process that needs a little more love. That is what getting over the rainbow can do for you. In realizing that you're not the sum of your labels, the player of a part, you get in touch with the light at your essence. You can see others around you not as things that mirror you but as part of a wonderful, swirling, beautiful rainbow of humanity. You can leave behind your past

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judgements--of both yourself and others-- and live truly in this moment, freeing you to the experience of love in the here and now.

From the Inside Out
It may not sound practical. Or possible. Or sane. But we can live in peace. All of us, together. With our unending mix of ideas and causes and passions and commitments. With our differing lifestyles, religious beliefs, tax brackets, and educations. Being different isn't bad. Because we're not different, not way down deep, where it matters. All the rainbow labels and experiences and biographies you create serve only to help you identify yourself to the outside world. They give you purpose. They provide meaning. They fill time. But underneath it all, we're Light. Simply because our minds disagree doesn't make us any different in our center. Anywhere you go you'll meet people. Whether you go up to them and speak or simply glance at them and look away, you're meeting them.

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Each of those people you see is breathing, just like you. They are thinking, just like you. They have lives and biographies. They carry stones of guilt with them. They have little fears that inhibit them on a daily basis. Those people are you. And me. They are just us in different rainbow cloaks. Nothing less than our real identical twin housed in different packaging. But we can't make them see that, can we? We can't very well walk up to another person who is hurting us or judging us because of what we wear or how we look. We can't force that person who won't give us a job because of the color of our skin to see an "enlightened" viewpoint. We can only heal ourselves. Even when we're the victims of repression and discrimination, even when we're the witnesses--or worse, recipients--of violence because of the world's separation with its spirit, we can find healing. We can have peace. We don't have to view the world as frightening.

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Or unfair. Or hopeless. Because the world exists within us. Our families are a microcosm of the world. We, in spirit, are the same spirit that flows through every person on this earth. As we start to heal, a tiny speck of consciousness becomes free. Our healing passes to our families, to our employers, to our churches, to our schools. Healing spreads, like the sickness that preceded it, into our businesses and into our government. But healing can only be done in the spirit. And our agencies--governmental, social, religious, educational-can pass laws, can adopt new guidelines and try to reduce the injustices within their limited scope, but healing begins with people. With us, not our institutions. We can't wait for an enlightened elected official to come into office and make everything right. We allow things to righten, within ourselves. When we find who and what we really are (and aren't), balance comes naturally.

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Our government won't value people until we value people. And we won't value people until we realize that they are more than the colors they represent. Oh, we'll put up with people and their differences, and we'll call ourselves open-minded. But really valuing people, loving them beyond their words, seeing them beyond their surfaces, living in awe-struck wonder at the indescribable rainbows we see, is more than being open-minded. It's open-spirited. The differences we see on the surface don't threaten us. We don't need to invest our selves in battles of whose right and whose wrong. We can be at peace and love the incredible number of hues we see cast across our skies each and every moment of every day. Even in the midst of darkness, we can see the Light shining underneath. The world is not going to hell in a handbasket. The world is healing, slowly. And the more trouble we see manifesting itself on a surface level, the more time we'll spend looking at our selves in the mirror.

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And sooner or later, we're going to see that glimmer of light beyond the rainbow.

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Chapter Eleven
Raising Rainbow-Free Children
My son made his first ethnic distinction at age three. He stood before me, looking up, small and reddened from his exposure to a rather unseasonably harsh October wind, sniffled, and said: "Mommy, I let the chocolate boy ride my bike." Hmmm. How to handle that? I smiled, of course. And although I knew at some point I would probably need to correct his terminology, I nodded and said "That's okay, honey." When you're three, you don't think of things as unimportant as names when you've found someone new to play with. True to his age, my son didn't think to ask his friend what his name was. They played in the sandbox together. They pushed the Big Foot ctr ucks around in the

dirt. They picked up rocks from the driveway and threw them as far as their little arms would allow. Sharing. Fun. What more do you need from a relationship than that?

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Three-year-olds have freedoms that you and I do not. They don't have the world-view understanding to know what a put -down is. They don't have the command of the language that you and I have, so they don't fill their time with meaningless conversation. They join forces in an imaginative world of unlimited adventure; they become partners in fantasy. They can't analyze and scrutinize and judge the actions of others like we can. They don't carry with them past experience that tells them to stay away from this group or that group. They only know how they feel in the moment. To a three-year-old, life is right now. Consider, from a three-year-old's perspective, how ridiculous our labeling system sounds: black, white, yellow, red. Gay and straight. Christian, New Ager, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist...the list goes on and on. Black people are not black. White people are not white. Gay people seem as happy as everyone else. And what else could "straight" mean except someone who walks with good posture?

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Before Labels
We can accept that children are born without labels. Labels are created by the mind, the ego, as a means of identifying us and others we come in contact with. Labels don't start to stick until we reach the age where we are aware of ourselves thinking. Thoughts, as adults, come to us in the form of words, a kind of internal talking to ourselves. As you read this book, your eyes scan over the words and something very much like a voice--your own voice--is reading them to you in your head. We can capture the thought as though it is being spoken to us. We can hear ourselves thinking. At three, my son didn't realize what thinking was. Not like you and I. He didn't analyze things. He didn't hear that small internal thinking voice in his head. When he saw freshly baked chocolate chip cookies sitting unguarded on the counter, there was no voice in his head to say "Wait a minute, hold on. Mom wouldn't want you to sneak those without asking." He saw, he wanted, he took. Only through programming do we teach our children to hear that separate, inner voice that cautions them to go against their inner nature.

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As an adult, have you ever tried to return to the world of pretend? It probably didn't happen. As a kid, I spent hours and hours pretending in a drainage ditch close to our apartment. We lived in a world surrounded by concrete and asphalt, so trees and grass and water were things to be cherished. My friend and I worked diligently to clean up the area, digging up discarded Coke cans, pulling up wads of paper that got stuck in the rocks and the trickling stream carried them out of the apartment complex. We called it our Secret Cove. I remember that place with a certain awe-laced love and wonder. No matter how many truly beautiful nature-filled places I visit as an adult, I don't think the feeling can match the one I felt sitting on the bank of that ditch, watching the water rippling along. My son has close to a million toy cars of varying shapes and sizes. (Okay, I'm exaggerating. But it seems like a million when I'm the one picking them up off the living room floor.) When he gets those things out and starts playing, he goes away, mentally. He becomes the car he's pushing around.

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"Beep beep! Look out! The monster truck is going to squash you!" the monster rolls over my little car, smashing it into the carpet. "Call the ambulance! Anybody in there?" His voice changes to become the ambulance. "Let's get him to the hospital!" The voice goes back again to the monster truck. "Look out, you little cars, I'm coming back!" And what do I do? I play along. I use different voices. My cars go to the grocery store, to the gas station. My red car gets washed in the pretend car wash. I use the Lincoln Logs and the Legos to build garages and oil-change places. But you know what? I'm aware that I'm pretending. Christopher zooms around, unconscious of the fact that he's a boy, not a car. He has no idea, in this moment, that he's participating in a game known as make-believe.

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And that is what I think happens to us when we begin to listen to our thinking and start gathering labels. I think we cover ourselves up so that we can't be the experience anymore. "I'm an adult," I think. "What if Doug sees me playing this? He's going to make fun of me." Or, even worse: "Maybe I should use this time with Christopher to teach him something." And outwardly I say "Christopher, what color is that car? How many blue cars do you see?" Wrong. I should be learning from him. I need to take my Parent label off for a moment and see how seamless he becomes with the experience. There's no little voice inside him saying "I look silly" or "I should b e watching cartoons right now." There is no I. There are no labels. He's living in this moment, true to the experience, not carrying around judgment or labels or fears or restrictions. He is Light. He's what I want to be when I grow up.

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When we can allow ourselves to open to the people we were before labels, we throw open a door for endless possibilities. Honesty. Truthfulness. Love. It's this same cloaking process that keeps you and I from truly loving and trusting each other. We hear ourselves think. We carry the labels of judgment passed down, perhaps, by our parents and their parents before them. We can't meet each other like two three-yearolds looking for someone to play with. Our labels won't let us. There's too much to think about, too much to fear. Our labels entwine themselves into this big rainbow cloak that separates us, you and me and everyone else we'd like to play with. But we know it's under there. We did it once. We were able to get by--very happily, thank you--without the protective self-identity labels we now use on a daily basis. We were able to become fully joined with our experience, whether we were playing cars or Barbies or anything else. When we can become that car, you and I will truly meet at the point beneath our rainbows. Our skins, sexes, experiences, and opinions won't matter.

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In that moment, they won't even exist.

Preserving the Light
So when we look at parenting from this perspective--that our children are closer to that something we need to find for ourselves -parenting becomes less a job of teaching than it does one of protecting. They are born with an understanding of spirit. They already know how insignificant things like skin color, hair color, and other outward differences are. Those things are only as important as we make them. Whether we openly discuss the superiority or inferiority of ethnic groups, our children will absorb our prejudices. Whether we point to people on the street and make fun of them or keep our comments to ourselves, our children will know. When we get over our own rainbows, our children will learn to do the same. It's a natural process. But is it possible to raise a child who goes through life with no labels?

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Probably not. Labels aren't bad in themselves, and label-adoption is part of the normal self-identity cycle. As we grow, it helps us adapt to our changing world if we know who we are and where we fit. On a purely surface level, knowing that we're not alone is comforting even in the worst of times. However, it is possible to teach our children that t here is more beyond the colors we see with our eyes. They can know, from the time they become cars and Barbies and kings and queen, that they can know themselves and others on a deeper level, a level that needs no judgment and calls no names. We can celebrate our ethnic heritages while still honoring the fact that we are celebrating the rainbow, while the Light gleams softly underneath. Our kids can grow up with a love and wonder directed at all colors of the rainbow, not choosing one and judging the rest, but accepting them all as similar yet different expressions of the same Light. And when our kids go through that time of crisis -labeling, as they approach their teens, we can help them find a sense of peace in the

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knowledge that they are more than the people they see in the mirror. Their hair just isn't that important. Being in the "in" crowd isn't the end all. Going to the best college doesn't guarantee anyone success. And success doesn't guarantee happiness. Most of all, we can show our kids, by the way w e live, that happiness is right now --not a few second ago, not back in the good old days, and not in the future; as soon as we get that new car, new house, etc. Right now. They see us move unhindered from one moment to the next, loving each other, understanding each other, carrying no stones and fearing no horizons. And we'll be raising a generation of centered, spiritual children. And in each moment, the world will heal a little more. God, I'd like to see that.

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Chapter Twelve
Celebrating Light

Depending on the make-up of your particular family, you may have some experience with family reunions. Unless it's a holiday or someone's birthday, family reunions usually fall on the hottest, most humid day of the year. The day all the flies are revved up with extraordinary enthusiasm, landing on the exposed potato salad, perching on the handle of the spatula Uncle Herb uses to flip the burgers. And there's always that lime jello with the pineapple chunks that Aunt Edna makes--particularly attractive to gnats. When you're young, family reunions are the worst. You sit around and listen to the old people talk about the way things used to be. Your older cousins pick on you. You have to eat things you don't like. You listen to relatives you haven't seen in years tell you how much

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you've grown. They ask prying questions about boyfriends and dating and bra size. But, underneath it all, there's something that's kind of comforting. These are your people. Your great aunt with the moustache. Uncle Charlie who drinks too much and then always wants to play softball. Your cousin Raymond who's training for the seminary. Your cousin Erica who smokes pot behind the picnic shelter house. As strange as they look on the inside, there's something that connects you to them on the outside. Something about genes or blood, they tell you. Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes. But we've come to understand that the something isn't blood. Or water. Or genes. It's light. And your aunts moustache? Part of the rainbow. That wandering eye of Uncle Eddie? His own variation of rainbow light. As is the bellowing claim of Uncle Charlie that A.J. Foyt is the greatest racer of

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all time. And his brother's shouting voice claiming Al Unser in number one. And all the eye-rolling and head-shaking of the women sitting in the shade of the shelter house. What you feel is the light. What you see is the rainbow.

Celebrating Connection
As you get older, you come to appreciate these connections more. The holidays bring an opportunity --yes, an obligation, but also an opportunity--to see those people with whom you claim a genetic, ethnic bond. Our different heritages bring us different traditions that we wrap around our families, bonding us further. These traditions --whether it is Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's or Hannukah at the in-laws in Texas--grow with us and help preserve our understanding of our family connectedness. Where is that tradition for our bigger family, the human race? What kind of family reunion is available to us?

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We are so invested in our differences that we seem to be lacking any kind of outward celebration in which we can come together as a whole. We can't base our celebration on a similarity in religious beliefs, certainly. Or on sexual persuasion. Or on any of our exterior characteristics. What, then? What do we all do, all experience, all share? If we can't claim to be bonded by genetics or ethnic heritage, how can we outwardly celebrate our connectedness?

Celebrating Sameness
There are, of course, some very basic things we do each and every day of our lives. These things are the basic mark of a human being, and without them, we couldn't prove to anyone that we were actually living. We breathe. We sleep. We awaken. We eat. (Some of us not as often as we should.) We share. We love.

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Most of these are basic functions of the human animal. There is a light behind our eyes--whether that light flashes in anger or gleams in love. It's there. We share it. Certain poignant times in our lives can be felt, truly, by others. The empathy we feel when someone describes a spiritual experience-like the birth of a child--or a heartbreaking reality --like a debilitating illness--is an expression of the light. We've all got it. We're more alike than we are different. Inside, where it matters, we're the same. But nothing exists in our society to celebrate that sameness. We live in a time when our government, our businesses, and our media is convinced the cup is half empty. We overlook the overwhelming similarities of our spirits and choose instead to concentrate on the range of fleeting outward characteristics that make us appear different. When you wake up in the morning, make that first opening of your eyes a celebration. Feel that people all over the world will be having that same experience at some point during their day. When you speak to a stranger on the street, recognize that other people everywhere

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are doing the same thing. When your kids get your goat and you feel yourself huffing in frustration, know that you are linked to every parent everywhere. You are not just you. You are not alone. When you're stuck in traffic, remember that it's you in each of those cars. And in me. And in your parents. And your children. That light gleaming, right down there in the center of things, waiting to be asked out. And when you speak harshly to another person, know that you are speaking to yourself. And if your hand ever raises in anger, understand that the anger is in you toward you. When that rainbow cloak falls away, you find a filling sense of peace that answers all the questions you've ever had. It wipes away frustrations--with yourself and with others--that have been forever present. The love that finds its way out of you is staggering and freeing. Understand that there may be times when the world is threatening, and your relationship isn't working, and your kids are

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driving you crazy. There will be days you look in the mirror and see nothing but frizzy hair and tired eyes and a worn -out expression. You may doubt that there is such a thing as Light. That's okay. Because you'll be sharing those same human doubts, frustrations, and trials with every person who ever lived. That's pretty good company. And the fact is that no matter how screwed up we think the world is, no matter how invested we are in our rainbows, no matter how much our society, our government, and our selves deny the truth beyond the rainbow, the Light shines on.

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Endings There's always a piece of me that feels incomplete until I say goodbye at the end of a book. Writing for me is a mystical proces s-words and images appear in my brain and my fingers type in a frenzy until the energy is released, as accurately as possible, into sentences and paragraphs and chapters that appear almost magically on my computer. But the best thing about writing is that I feel like I'm just sitting on my front porch, watching the mockingbird, talking to you. Yes, you--right now, right there, reading. You who are the mixture of rainbow and light, just like me. Our connection feels very real to me. The only reason we have for getting over the rainbow is the healing available on the other side. We step out of the game of Us -andThem. We share the love at our essence from a point that defies mere surface qualities. But getting over the rainbow, we open ourselves to unlimited potential for giving and recieving love. And when we ourselves begin to heal, the world around us starts its own healing process.

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And one day, when you and I pass each other on the street, we'll look beyond our skin color and eye color and hair color. We w on't judge each other by our sexual preferences or economic backgrounds. We'll look in each other's eyes, and smile.

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